Lawmakers move to repeal pay now for nuclear later law

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 02, 2013

You're about to pay more on your electric bill if you're a Florida Power and Light or Progress Energy customer.

The companies are raising rates to help pay for new nuclear reactors that may actually never be built.

But some lawmakers are trying to stop the hike from happening. 

It would be $2.59 a month more, to be exact if you're an average Florida Power and Light customer and $1.80 if you're with Progress Energy.

Under Florida law, utility companies can charge you now for nuclear later.

Democratic Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda has filed a bill to repeal that law, calling it unfair to customers.

“They've scratched their head and said, 'now, wait a second - you're talking about $24 billion, with plants that may not be built before 2025'. Some of the customers and consumers are going to be dead by then,” she said.

Building a nuclear plant is one of the most expensive undertakings of all. Utilities contend they can't pay for it on their own, and without your help, the nuclear option could well become a thing of the past, meaning the power companies might have to rely on more coal-fired power plants. They're cheaper to build, but dirtier than nuclear.

Florida Power and Light's Mark Bubriski points out paying for all that coal would take a lot of money, too.

“Nuclear power is cost-effective, the fuel costs are very low, it has zero emissions, and it helps us deliver reliable power around the clock, so we think it's an important investment,” Bubriski said.

The law allowing power companies to charge customers in advance for nuclear projects was passed in 2006. The law's critics say a lot has changed since then, including advances in renewable energy that make nuclear less of a need.